Christian Chukwuemeka Chukwu and Stephen Okechukwu Keshi (Left), the only two men to have captained Nigeria senior team to African Cup of Nations glory, will go up against each other on Saturday as opposing Head Coaches during the Nwankwo Kanu Testimonial Football Match at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.
Chukwu, captain of the 1980 Nations Cup winning squad and a Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), will coach the Super Eagles’ All-Stars against Keshi’s ‘Friends of Kanu’, predominantly players invited from outside Nigeria.
Keshi was captain of the squad that lifted the only African Cup of Nations title that Nigeria have won outside her shores, in Tunisia in 1994 and qualified tiny Togo for the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals in Germany.
Organizers have indeed found fitting crews for a showpiece game in honour of the most decorated footballer to have come out of Nigeria, at a venue aptly named after one of the greatest Nigerian players of all time.
Chukwu is joined on the home team’s bench by fellow old horses Ganiyu Salami and Solomon Ogbeide, also ex-internationals. Keshi will be supported by Coaches Joe Erico and Monday Odigie.
Salami and Erico have been assistant Coaches of the national senior team at different times. Erico was Nigeria’s number one goalkeeper for many years, including being in goal at the 1976 African Cup of Nations in Ethiopia.
Among the big names coming from outside the country, who will play as ‘Friends of Kanu’, are Ghana’s Sammy Kuffour, Michael Essien, Stephen Appiah and Asamoah Gyan, Senegal’s El Hadj Diouf, Tony Silva and Khalilou Fadiga, South Africa’s Lucas Radebe and Aaron Mokoena, Cameroon’s Rigobert Song and DR Congo’s Lomana Tresor Lua Lua.
Kanu’s former team-mate at West Bromwich Albion, Hermann Hreidarsson, Algeria’s Madjid Bougherra and Togo Captain Emmanuel Sheyi Adebayor are also expected, alongside Zambia’s Kalusha Bwalya, the 1988 African Footballer of the Year, now President of Zambia FA and a current Member of the CAF Executive Committee.
Head Coach of the Super Eagles, Samson Siasia will be among the home boys, also expected to include Mutiu Adepoju, Augustine Eguavoen and Daniel Amokachi.
The Nigeria Football Federation has also appointed Dr. Ahmed Tijjani Yusuf, a two-time General Secretary of the Federation, as Match Commissioner for Saturday’s glamour event.
Yusuf, who retired as a Deputy Director at the National Sports Commission and is now a lecturer at the Bayero University, Kano was Secretary General when Nigeria qualified for the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals and the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals. He was also at one time Director of the National Institute for Sports, Lagos.
FIFA-graded referees will be in charge of the encounter. The centre referee is Ago Abubakar, with Peter Edibe as first Assistant Referee and Revd. Father Chukwudi Onumajuru as second Assistant Referee. Benjamin Ode is the Fourth Official.